Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chelsea wins Champions League, finally

The two players I'm happiest for are Drogba and Lampard.  Both men, 34 by the start of next season, are on the downside of their careers.  They've truly given their best years to Chelsea - Lampard came in 2001, Drogba in 2004 - and have together won 3 Premier League titles and 4 FA Cups since.  However, the UEFA Champions League championship had always painfully evaded them.  Together having scored nearly 350 goals together for Chelsea (they rank #3 (Lampard) and #4 (Drogba) in all-time Chelsea goals), none were as big as Drogba's emphatic 88th minute header to send the game to extra time.

Abramovich has been coveting the European championship trophy probably ever since he won back-to-back EPL titles in '05 and '06.  But after 4 semifinal losses (including the heartbreaking injury time goal by Iniesta to deny Chelsea a Finals appearance in 2009) and the PK loss to Man U in the 2008 CL Final (when Terry slipped and missed the game-winning PK - serves him right), it seemed that the golden generation of Chelsea football would fade away without the prize they craved the most.  Even this season, former manager, Andre Villas-Boas, had tried to cast aside Lampard and Drogba in favor of the younger players of Chelsea's future.  Little did he realize the most glorious moment of Chelsea history was about to arrive on the shoulders of its present legends.

The moments I will remember from the Final:

- Ashley Cole defending out of his mind to keep Bayern scoreless except his 83rd minute marking lapse.  He atoned for it with his perfect PK, powerfully lashed out of Neuer's reach, just inside the right post into the side netting.

- Petr Cech deserving consideration for man of the match honors.  He atoned for Drogba's brain-dead extra time penalty box foul and expertly punched away Olic's PK.

- David Luiz's long, accelerating, run-up after which he resolutely punished the ball into the right-top corner.  And Lampard had the guts to send it straight up the middle over Neuer.

- Drogba's incredulous expression after rolling in his game-winning PK.  It was disbelief and joy rolled into one.

The night was the biggest moment of Lampard and Drogba's professional careers.  Lampard, already a Chelsea legend and the greatest Chelsea player of this generation, really has nothing left to achieve now.  And though he made some public mistakes in early 2000s, he has since handled himself in a very respectable and professional manner, making me wonder why in the world Terry is undisputed captain all the time.

Drogba, having clinched the game in what is likely his last kick of the ball in a Chelsea shirt, added to his extremely impressive resume.  At this club, he has SCORED in the championship game of 8 different Cups (4 FA Cups, 3 Football League Cups and 1 CL) out of a total of 9 played.  He finished with 9 goals in those 8 games, including 4 game-winners.  The best part, is that his goals helped Chelsea win 7 of those 9 games.  His only blight is the red card he received in the '08 CL Final vs Man U, but this game more than made up for it.  Can you imagine Drogba's reputation had Cech not saved Robben's extra time penalty?  Unbelievable how one moment can alter lives forever in this game.

You may be wondering why I care about Chelsea.  Okay, I don't really feel that much of a connection with the club, especially one that's half a world away.  But, they have come to LA on summer tours I believe at least 3 times since 2005, often practicing at UCLA (something that Real Madrid has taken to doing - I guess Mourinho just likes it here) and were readily available to interested fans.  Even Abramovich would pose for pictures.  They were the opponent for Beckham's first Galaxy game, for which I was in attendance.  Seriously, back in 2006, they were the new galacticos - the most expensive team on earth with players like Ballack, Shevchenko, Robben, Essien, etc.  So I'm happy for them that they won with those who were able to persevere through the tough years.  That said, now that they've won theirs, I'd rather see Real win the CL next year.

Last note:  I couldn't be more pleased that Terry didn't play in the club's biggest game in history.  Given his history - post 9/11 behavior, Wayne Bridge's girl, racism accusations, etc, doesn't he just strike you as a class-less jerk?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I see this football match and enjoy this match. Thanks for your informative post.